Syllabus for the Electric Word: English 214 Second Year Composition

English 214: Second Year Written Composition

Instructor: Ronald B. Richardson

Course Description

Welcome to the Electric Word: Second Year Composition! I look forward to the exchange of ideas with all of you as we explore reading, research, critical thinking, and writing in primarily digital environments.

A Hybrid Course: Half of the classes for this course will be face to face in a traditional classroom; for the other half, we will meet asynchronously online through iLearn, the course management system at SFSU. We will meet physically every Monday and half of the Wednesdays (see the course schedule). The other half of the Wednesdays and all Fridays will be online. When classes are online, students may complete the class work any time that day or earlier. Because of the hybrid nature of this course, students should be self-motivated and good at time management.

Blogs and Other Genres: We will spend most of the semester creating our own blogs and exploring a topic related to our majors, potential majors, or possible careers, which should help us develop digital literacy and build knowledge and writing skills in our fields. Because of the highly digital nature of this course, students should be comfortable with computers. On the other hand, this course may be a good way for students to become more familiar with them.


Basic Requirements: In order to pass, students should demonstrate that they have done and understood a majority of the readings, completed most of the exercises and quizzes, written the six major writing assignments, compiled the two portfolio, and visited me at least twice during office hours.

Gaming System: Rather than giving grades (which can feel like a punishment if students get less than an A), I will be awarding “experience points,” much as in a scoring system of a game. Students may earn points through four types of tasks: encounters, trainings, quests, and achievements. There will also be some penalties and extra credit. As in gaming, higher numbers are more psychologically satisfying, so I will be awarding points by the hundreds. One hundred points is equivalent to 1% of the final grade. Thus, 1000 points can raise a grade by 10%, which is a full letter grade. 10,000 points is a perfect score of 100%.

  • Encounters are interactions with others in class and online. Each class attended on time is worth 25 encounter points. Students who have perfect attendance in the first or second half of the semester will get 50 points extra credit for each half. Respect for others, regardless of gender, race, class, religion, sexual orientation and physical ability, is expected. I encourage students to visit me at least twice during office hours for one-on-one consultations, once before and once after midterm, worth 100 encounter points each. Each extra visit is worth 25 points extra credit. Please make appointments with Ron in person or by email. Approximately 1250 encounter points.

  • Training includes reading forums, tutorials, prewriting activities, exercises, and quizzes on technology, research, reading, critical thinking, and writing. All assignments listed to the right of a class on the schedule must be completed after that class and before the next. Students must bring in underlined and annotated copies of all readings. (Electronic copies are acceptable, as long as students can underline and annotate.) Each missing reading will result in a -25 point penalty. Approximately 1250 training points.

  • Quests are major writing assignments. Some are graded individually; others are evaluated holistically in portfolios under “Achievements.” Those graded independently are worth 2500 quest points. If a student cannot make a deadline, that person should contact me before the due date to make new arrangements. If no new arrangements are made, the paper will receive a 100 point penalty for each day that the paper is late to a maximum of 500 points. Late papers will be accepted until the last day of class.

  • Achievements are demonstrated through electronic portfolios at midterm and the end of the semester. Portfolios are graded holistically. 5000 points.

  • Penalties: Only a few things will result in penalties, such as failure to bring in underlined and annotated readings (-25 points for each reading), late submissions of writing assignments (-100 points for each late day to a maximum of -500 points), and misuse of technology for nonacademic purposes (-25 points).

  • Extra Credit: There will be some extra credit throughout the semester, but students should not rely on it to pass the class; they must complete the basic requirements. Extra credit is limited to 500 points. If anyone catches me making a factual error, that person will receive 25 points extra credit. If someone catches me making a spelling or punctuation error, she or he will receive 10 points.

Progress Reports: I will send out progress reports at midterm, but students may also check their current score under “Grades” on iLearn at any time, visit me during office hours, or send me an email.

Earnable XP by Category



XP Each

Total XP


Reading forums, tutorials, prewriting activities, exercises, and quizzes

10, 25 or 50

1250 training points


Attendance, peer review, comments on blogs and writing forums, and required office visit

10, 25 or 100

1250 encounter points


A Digital Literacy Narrative

1000 quest points

Topic Proposal

500 quest points

Inquiry Blog Series

500 X 2

1000 quest points

(1500 achievement points)

Sustained Argument Blog Series

(2000 achievement points)

Genre Play

(500 achievement points each, 1000 total)

Reflections on Writing Digitally

(Scored as achievement: 500 points)


Midterm Portfolio

1500 achievement points

Final Portfolio

3500 achievement points

Grade Advancement

Total XP







































No pass

Overview of Quests and Achievements

Quest #1 : A Digital Literacy Narrative

A 1000-2000 word digital literacy narrative, i.e. your history as a literate person who has used digital technology. Due Monday, February 2nd. 1000 quest points

Quest #2: Topic Selection

In approximately 1000 words, describe the topic that you have selected for the Inquiry Blog Series and the Sustained Argument and explain your interest in detail. Due Monday, February 16th. 500 quest points

Quest #3: Inquiry Blog Series

5 posts of approximately 500 words each. Students’ first posts will be graded, and they may choose either the second or third for grading so that they know how I evaluate their online work. The remainder of the blogs will be evaluated in the midterm portfolio. Due February 27th, March 6th, March 13th, March 20th, and April 3rd. 1000 quest points for first post and second or third. 1500 achievement points for remaining three posts.

Achievement #1: Midterm Portfolio

At midterm students will submit an electronic portfolio of their Inquiry Blog Series. For this portfolio, students must revise at least two of their blogs. (See the Revisions section below.) Due Friday, April 3rd. 1500 achievement points.

Quest #4: Sustained Argument Blog Series

Identify a specific issue within your topic, research that issue, and then compose a series of four blog posts making a persuasive argument. Due Monday, May 4th. Scored under Achievement #2: The Final Portfolio for 2000 achievement points.

Quest #5: Genre Play

Using the argument you’ve been honing through your individual research and writing this semester, you will create two persuasive pieces in different genres. Due Monday, May 11th. Scored under Achievement #2: The Final Portfolio for 500 achievement points each, 1000 total.

Quest #6: Reflections on Writing Digitally

Reflecting back over your work this semester, write an essay of about 1000 words analyzing your growth in digital literacy. Due Friday, May 15th. Scored under Achievement #2: The Final Portfolio for 500 achievement points.

Achievement #2: Final Portfolio

At the end of the semester, students will turn in a portfolio of their work over the second half with the Sustained Argument Blog Series, the two Genre Play assignments, and the Reflections of Writing Digitally. Due Friday, May 15th. 3500 achievement points.

Revisions: I am a tough grader, awarding points for college-level writing demonstrating clarity, concision, grammatical accuracy, organization, argumentation, support and citations, but students may revise some of their work to raise their scores. They must revise two blog posts for the midterm portfolio and may revise all posts. Correction of surface errors will result in a slightly better score, but for significant improvement, students need to thoroughly revise organization, argumentation, and support. Good writers revise their work many times. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve your writing . . . and your score!

Other Policies and Resources

Students with Disabilities Statement: Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor. The Disability Program and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415 338-2472) or by email (

Plagiarism: The purpose of the class is to give students the skills they need to frame their own original ideas in effective prose, so plagiarism — copying someone else’s work without marking as a quote or giving the writer credit — is not only stealing someone else’s hard work, it is also cheating oneself out of the opportunity to gain the power of word!

Acknowledgements: The outline for this course, the major writing assignments, and many activities in this syllabus were jointly written by Doreen Deicke, John Holland, Niki Turnispeed, Kory Lawson Ching, Jennifer S. Trainor, and Ronald B. Richardson.

Official Course Description and Student Learning Outcomes

SF State Bulletin Description: Flexible reading and writing skills for academic inquiry and for engaging with social issues; varied composing and revising skills; critical analysis and self-reflection, with special attention to rhetorical variation; fine-tuning research.

Student Learning Outcomes: After completion of Lower Division Written Communication II, students will be able to:

1. use writing to inquire into authentic social issues and to enter into scholarly conversations, articulating responsible, informed positions

2. read, analytically and critically, complex texts from varied cultural and academic frameworks, integrating multiple perspectives

3. employ advanced search strategies to examine, and advanced criteria to evaluate, a wide variety of sources, including library resources, distinguishing scholarly from non-scholarly and primary from secondary information

4. adopt task-specific strategies for generating ideas, drafting, editing and proofreading, and revise mindfully, refining ways of giving and using feedback

5. reflect on their own and others’ literacy processes, strategies and habits in order to build more flexible reading and writing skills

6. compose rhetorically-aware, complex prose in a variety of genres matched to purpose, audience, and context

7. use evidence from a variety of sources to support a purpose, distinguishing adequate from inadequate support; use and cite information properly and ethically

8. control rhetorical and grammatical features, including style, usage, and conventions, with attention to purpose, audience and genre

9. compose in multiple environments, employing multiple modes, including words, images, and sound. (This SLO is for the hybrid course.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s